Anne Hope

Broken branches fleeing
before furious winds
forcing my little Fiat
into the face of the storm
bucking like a frightened horse
as it confronts the gale
seething streaks of lightning
replicating the rhythms
of the riotous elements
in the cocooned cabin
of my racing heart.
Closing in around me
in dark swirling clouds:
the Power of God .

Anne Hope

The Stolen Necklace
 
I had always longed to go to a Greek island.  My father had shown me pictures of the gorgeous rocky coastlands, sandy coves arcing round sea so blue it looked like ink, villages of white-washed houses climbing up hillsides so steep that the roads turned to staircases of stone; of veiled women, all in black, picking olives in the grey green groves; of goats and donkeys wandering on the hillsides, and ancient ruins of weathered stone in unexpected places;
 
When Henry suggested that we go to the island of Poros for our honeymoon I was overwhelmed.  From the moment I had met Henry I found him disturbingly attractive and secretly hoped that he was the one for me. For the first couple of years he paid very little attention to me.  I admired him from a distance, but scarcely dared to believe that he would ever notice me, let alone choose me for his life’s companion.   Then slowly, slowly he had started to show that he liked being with me.  First he simply moved across to join the group I was in whenever we met at a party.  Then he suggested we go to a concert at the City Hall.  It was all very platonic.  We discovered that we both loved the mountains, and as we explored the Table Mountain Range, the Hottentot’s Holland and Jonkershoek, our relationship grew deeper.  Quite suddenly everything had changed, and now I was married to him.  Everything I had ever yearned for was coming together in my life, and as we started to plan a honeymoon in Greece, I felt like the ‘spoilt child of fortune.’
 
We landed at Athens airport very early on a May morning.  The boat to the islands was not leaving until 4 p.m. so we made a quick trip up to the Acropolis.  None of the many pictures I had seen had done justice to the wonderful light, or the grace of the fluted columns of the Parthenon.  As I stood beneath the Karyatids of the Erechtheum I had a new sense of time and space.  I realized with awe how deeply our culture, and my own spirit, had been shaped by the unique sense of beauty of the early Greeks.  We could hardly tear ourselves away, and finally only just managed to rush back to the harbour at Piraeus in time to catch our boat to Poros.  Our joy kept bubbling over into laughter at one small delight after another as we stood at the rail watching the boats and the gulls, leaving behind the mainland, drawing nearer to ‘our’ island.
 
The first day was a dream.  Our hotel was a small friendly guesthouse run by a family who wanted  to do everything possible to make us happy.  We explored the inviting outdoor restaurants, and on the second evening sat for hours on a terrace under fruiting vines, looking out to sea, savouring the local wine, telling one another stories not yet shared of childhood holidays.
 
We returned at around 11 to the hotel.  I opened the suitcase to take out the old-fashioned frilly white nightdress my Mother had given me, which she had used on her own honeymoon.  I slipped off the jade earrings and necklace I had been wearing, and opened the green leather jewelbox.  

As I opened the lid I was instantly aware that the ruby necklace was not there.  The rubies had been a wedding gift from Henry’s grandmother.  They were far the most precious thing I possessed. 

This couldn’t be true.  They couldn’t be gone.  Had they fallen into the case, slipped down amidst the silk underwear?  Frantically pulled out everything in the case, shaking it and then throwing it on the floor.

“What on earth are you doing?”  Henry asked, as he emerged from the shower.

“The rubies are gone.  I can’t find the rubies,” I sobbed.

He joined in the search.  Down on our hands and knees, we peered under the bed, ran our hands over every inch of the floor, shook out again and again, everything that had been in the suitcase.

“Are you sure that the suitcase was locked? Henry asked.

I drew in my breath.  “I don’t think it was,” I said miserably.
 
“You fool!” Henry shouted.  “How on earth could you leave such precious things in an unlocked case, in a new hotel, in a strange foreign country?   My grandmother will be furious.  She found it very hard to part with that necklace.  My grandfather gave it to her when she told him she was pregnant with her first child.  She never intended to give it away.  But when we got engaged she wanted to give you something special … to make you feel truly welcomed into the family. I don’t know how I’ll ever tell her.  You must go right away and talk to the hotel staff.”

“O!  I can’t.  It’s much too late,” I whimpered.  I felt both betrayed and deserted.  “We’ll have to wait and look again in the morning.”

“No! We’ve looked everywhere.  We know it’s not here. You must go right – confront them before they have time to get rid of it.  It’s our only chance.  Go on.”

I didn’t budge.  Tears were running down my cheeks, for the necklace, but also because of Henry’s anger.

He relented.  “I’ll come with you, but you do the talking.  You left the case unlocked.”  

“O, I can’t.  I can’t… just accuse them.  They’re so nice, so friendly.   I can’t believe that anyone in this family took it.”

“How else could it have disappeared?”  Henry asked with  withering scorn. 
 
At that moment I hated Henry.  His attitude felt like very harsh retribution for one careless moment of forgetfulness. 
I said, “I  feel like a dog being kicked when it is already down.”

“Don’t be stupid.  Come on.” Henry said, pulling me roughly towards the door. 
 
Of course the family denied knowing about the necklace. 

We went miserably back to bed and decided to move to another island. Our relationship with our hosts was spoilt, and so, for the moment, was our honeymoon and our relationship with one another. 

It took a week of Mediterranean sea and sky, seven silent walks, and seven long swims, seven Greek dinners, and seven bottles of wine, before we were able to look one another in the eye, share our sadness at the loss of the rubies, and finally laugh together again.  After all, even rubies have no right to ruin a honeymoon.
 

Anne Hope

Further down, behind thought, deep in the body.
My gut, so disturbed, so nervous.
Consciousness knocks fiercely
on  the door of this passage.
Bangs of experience open areas
prettified, ignored, sublimated,
inadmissible to myself, to you.
Climbing down the steep muddy bank,
slipping and slithering, calves shaking,
controlling feet that fear a bang on the bottom.
The door of awareness, like a ‘rampart of clay’
warns one can never go back.
The false sense shivers in the face of…Something,
authentic, threatening, lovable.
The familiar ego feels frantic.
 
The familiar ego feels frantic
Threatening, authentic, lovable.
The false self shivers in the face of… Something
warns one can never go back.
The door of awareness like a rampart of clay.
Controlling feet that fear a bang on the bottom,
slipping and slithering, calves shaking,
climbing down the steep muddy bank.
Inadmissible to myself, to you,
prettified, ignored, sublimated.
Bangs of experience open areas
through the door of this passage.
Consciousness knocks fiercely.
My gut, so disturbed, so nervous.
Further down, behind thought, deep in the body.
 
      

Anne Hope

A personal visit from a baboon

I know a lot of you were shocked on Friday evening when I said at supper that I thought the baboons, that were wreaking havoc in towns like Kommetjie and Kleinmond, should be darted and transferred to a remote place in the mountains where they would not trouble people. Some of you pointed out that they were here first and had every right to stay. I think I had been very influenced by all the correspondence in our local paper, The Echo, where agonized parents were saying that they no longer could allow their children to play in their own gardens for fear of baboon attacks. Many people are frightened by them, and when they go into houses, which they frequently do, they make a terrible mess of the place.

Well, I have to report that yesterday I had a personal visit from a baboon about the matter. I was sitting at my desk upstairs in our house in Lakeside, working at my computer. Suddenly I looked up and there, peering in my window, was a huge alpha male baboon. He was sitting on the kitchen roof just below my window. His face was level with mine, just about a foot away, but fortunately it was a cold day and the window was closed. For a few moments we were face to face, looking into each other’s eyes. Then I picked up a sheaf of papers and shook them at him saying “shoo”. It was very inhospitable, but I was shocked and a bit afraid, though there was really no need to be. There was no way he could get in. He looked a bit surprised at my attitude, then turned and leapt gracefully down onto my pelargoniums.

He made his way slowly and peacefully up the path through the back garden. He visited the back of the neighbours garden for a few minutes, and then walked sedately back past our house along the retaining wall. He settled down in full view on the grass above the wall and found a meal of some kind of greenery there, which he popped into his mouth with one of his hands, just as we do, and chewed thoughtfully. When he had finished his meal he turned and evidently crossed Boyes Drive. A few minutes later I saw him half way up the Crack of Dawn, and then lost sight of him amongst the rocks.

I kept thinking of him last night, wondering where he was, whether he had a warm place to sleep, in a cave or under a thick bush. I wondered whether he had been cast out of his troop by a younger male who had taken over the leadership, and I wondered if he was lonely. I began to regret that I had not been more hospitable and had not taken more time to commune with him during his visit. After all, it is not often that one has the opportunity to sit face to face at such close quarters with a baboon. He had such nice brown eyes and his subsequent behaviour could not have been more peaceful. However I did also wonder whether he was just scouting out the possibilities, and if he found a very friendly reception in Lakeside, was planning to bring his whole troop back across the mountain. Was he satisfied with the food the Creator had allotted to him, or was he, like us, caught up in the consumer culture? I knew I had to take his perspective more seriously. Perhaps this visit was not a co-incidence? The questions remain. How can we all live attuned to one another sharing the bounty of the Earth?

Anne Hope

Beloved:
You have gone away again
lost to me in a life
of throbbing energy,
caught in a vision
that consumes
your time,
your mind,
your heart.

I envy those pursuing with you
your demanding dream.
I watch you go, and know
I can no longer keep your pace
no longer gallop at your side
jump hedges and wade streams.

I feel alone, abandoned
-desiring to be there,
– desiring peace and quiet,
longing still to share
the joy of action
sense of high achievement
of a common goal,
dreading the compulsion
to stretch beyond my aging strength
or face mortality.

(100 words)

Anne Hope

Reflecting on Thich Nhat Hahn

We 'Inter-are' – The Ancient Ones
myself, and children yet unborn.
We share our blood and bones and brains
and pass them on when we are gone.
The Ancient Ones to me, and then
myself to children yet unborn.
The tremors that hve stirred their hearts
still ripple through my own,
like circles spreading in a pond
I'll pass them on when I am gone
to children yet to come.
Like circles spreading in a pond
we share our blood and bones and brains
and live again when we are dead.
We 'inter-are' – the Ancestors,
My Self, and children yet unborn.